CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — When you hear the word “museum,” your brain probably goes to science, history or space. But one Central Illinois man is the envy of collectors everywhere.
Thomas Scaggs created his own “Illini Museum,” dedicated to collecting jerseys, equipment and memorabilia.
It all started when he collected cards as a nine-year-old. Over the years, that grew and grew with enough pieces to fill three different rooms from top to bottom with orange and blue.
“I’m such a diehard Illini fan,” Scaggs said. “Being able to touch memorabilia from actual game-used situations gives me goosebumps.”
He has over 100 game-used jerseys, dozens of signed photos and pieces of history you can’t find anywhere else.
Out of the thousands of pieces in the collection, the game-used Red Grange helmet is his favorite.
“I’ve only seen two. And the other one was in terrible, terrible shape,” Scaggs noted. “This is really the best one there is.”
He’s invited coaches and athletes into the space.
“They’re all mesmerized when they get here,” Scaggs said. “Craig Swoope with the Rose Bowl team in 1984, he’s the most mesmerized person I ever saw in here. He could not keep his eyes off of it and he was going for over 30 minutes nonstop.”
It’s hard not to be mesmerized with all of the gear.
“I have signed balls in basketball going back 30 years,” he showed. “Including the two Final Four years here. The Elite 8 net that was used to get to the Final Four in 1989.”
He has a room with 25 basketball jerseys, with another 70 put away because he doesn’t have space.
Scaggs also has many pieces of Chicago history, like Sammy Sosa’s 500th home run ball and Michael Jordan’s and Walter Payton’s game-used jerseys.
There are still more items he hopes to collect and check off the bucket list. He said a game-used Red Grange jersey is at the top.